Mike, Jim and Jon were discussing a topic yesterday that I want to dig into a bit, because I think it has a broader context, one about intention.
Mike questioned two of Jim’s cites. One was about the Sea Change funding and one was about the Rocky Mountain Institute and its funding from the Chinese. My view is that generally, people don’t accept money to do things they disagree with (unless you’re an employee). So is money really an important thing to track?
Let’s take three energy examples. Often a person can read that say Senator Manchin is “in the pockets of fossil fuel companies.” But I ask, is it chicken or egg? If a person supports a policy, then organizations that support the policy will like to fund that person.
Just looking around randomly, EDF Action Fund (Environmental Defense) spent $171K for Senator Murkowski’s 2022 win. Do we think that that contribution changed her mind about anything?
Then there’s wind and solar.. the Open Secrets website says.. “Of partisan contributions, 76 percent went to Democrats, who want to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy sources.”
Again, this sounds like industries (and ideological folks) support people who want to foster their industries or ideologies. I suppose if a Congressperson or Senator is lukewarm, a large contribution might make them feel more warm and fuzzy toward a given industry or point of view. Maybe it happens.
Let’s go back to Sea Change and Rocky Mountain Institute, they both have donations from sources we may say are questionable. But we will never know if they have changed their point of view based on this part of their funding. Then there’s this (obviously the far-left designation means the source report is biased, but are the observations they made true?)
Do the Simons invest in renewables because they believe in them, or do they invest in ENGO’s who want to get rid of competitors like oil and gas because of their underlying beliefs or to support the industries they’ve invested in? More chickens and eggs. And to complicate things, currently nat gas electric generation is quite compatible and without large-scale battery capability, necessary as a backup to wind and solar because it’s relatively easy to power up and down. You can see the natgas/wind/solar compatibility in these graphs from across the country the last four days. That’s one of the reasons Sierra Club supported nat gas. .. until they didn’t. Supposedly because some chapters didn’t like it; but other chapters don’t like wind..
My original point wasn’t that people who want to get rid of domestic production of fossil fuels are funded by what we might gently term “non-supportive nation-states.” My point was rather “if we can’t distinguish these proposed “keep it in the ground” policies from those of non-supportive nation-states, shouldn’t we ask why that is and have that open dialogue with those holding those views somewhere? Maybe it’s just my personal laziness-perusing 990s makes my eyes glaze over. And if we go into the funding question, we have to go within the complex minds of politicians as to whether they are “bought off” or just “supported by folks who agree with them.”
It seems to me that we are unlikely to delve into their psychology in any meaningful way. So I think we should stick to actions and writing, not intentions.
Similarly, (not to pick on Mike, as I’ve used this term in the past, as have others), I’d like to do away with the terms misinformation, disinformation and malinformation for the purposes of The Smokey Wire.
I’m always leery of new words entering the lexicon.. if, as our old friend, the author of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes), says, “there is nothing new under the sun” chances are we won’t really need new words. I think simply saying “I don’t think that’s true, based on..” will take care of it. The whole misinformation movement seems a bit cloudy. For example, I looked up the definition of it on Google. It said “false or inaccurate information, especially that which is deliberately intended to deceive.” So, whoa! We’ve gotten back into reading other peoples’ intentions again.
When people make up new words or abstractions, I am suspicious that there is an underlying purpose that doesn’t involve my input. Here’s what the American Psychological Association (second on my Google search) has to say and yes, I noticed it doesn’t match the Google definition:
Misinformation is false or inaccurate information—getting the facts wrong. Disinformation is false information which is deliberately intended to mislead—intentionally misstating the facts.
The spread of misinformation and disinformation has affected our ability to improve public health, address climate change, maintain a stable democracy, and more. By providing valuable insight into how and why we are likely to believe misinformation and disinformation, psychological science can inform how we protect ourselves against its ill effects.
And yet, people have been giving out misinformation and disinformation (however defined) since we learned to sign, and somehow Homo sapiens has managed to muddle through.
As to falsehood.. let’s face it – most of us, most of the time are not going to do the investigation to figure out where we come out based on our own review of 990s. Most of the topics we cover are complex, conditional in time and space, and oftentimes it’s difficult to discern what is true. In the words of Politifact, with regard to the Rocky Mountain Institute:
The institute is working with the Chinese government to reduce carbon emissions, but experts say that characterizing this as “ties” to the Communist Party lacks important context.
So there are facts, but they can be stated in such a way that they lack “important context.” Maybe we’ll never arrive at the ultimate truth? Or maybe there isn’t one truth. I’m sure Anonymous would have the relevant philosophical citations. On a more pragmatic level..
Say Amira says to Javier “that’s misinformation”. Amira is implying that either Javier is a doofus who’s been misinformed or that he has ill intentions to misnform others. Or maybe both. We should be able to challenge each others facts and perceptions without implying anything negative about each other.
So here are my suggested substitutions.
That’s disinformation.. = These sources, or my experience, say something different.
That’s been debunked. = These sources, or my experience, say something different.
See how easy that is?